COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy. As of April 2, first-time claims for unemployment benefits across the nation jumped 3,000 percent to 6.6 million.
Freelancers, who are easy targets for cuts during downturns, are hurting. Thankfully, the CARES Act provides temporary “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” to independent contractors and self-employed workers. Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act offers tax credits for a limited amount of sick leave. Unemployment benefits vary by state, but in California, for instance, you could receive around 46 percent of your typical wages up to $450 a week, plus an additional $600 weekly from the federal government.
If you are among the freelancers who lost work recently, there are resources out there that can help. Here’s where to start.
Your state’s unemployment insurance website
Go on your state’s unemployment insurance website to select the right forms to fill out. (This U.S. Department of Labor page should help you find them.) You might also have to call a hotline to complete the process. Be persistent, and make sure you follow all the steps to ensure you receive payment as quickly as possible.
If you turned your freelance career into a business, such as an LLC, then you can apply for a small business loan on SBA.gov. If you have employees, you can continue paying them and the loan will cover it. You can also look into loan advances, bridge loans, and debt relief.
Freelancers Relief Fund
Freelancers Union is always there for independent workers. Their Freelancers Relief Fund is accepting applications for assistance of up to $1,000 per household for lost income to cover essentials. Contently is partnering with Freelancers Union to raise emergency grants for creative freelancers. Learn whether you’re eligible and apply here.
The site also has important information about government relief programs, health insurance updates, tax-filing information, paid sick leave laws, aid programs, and much more.
PEN America Writers’ Emergency Fund
PEN America is giving out grants of $500 to $1,000 to people who “demonstrate an inability to meet an acute financial need.” You’re only eligible if you live in the U.S., are a professional writer, and can show that this grant will help you respond to an emergency situation. They will get back to applications within 10 days.
ASJA Writers Emergency Assistance Fund
ASJA also set up an emergency fund for writers, but you are only eligible if you can’t work because you’re ill or caring for someone who is ill. You don’t need to be a member of the ASJA, but you do need to at least have five articles published in national or regional publications (journalists) or one book published by a major publishing house (authors). The review process takes two to four weeks.
If you’re in writers’ groups on Facebook, some are collecting funds for those in need. Look at what the admins are posting and reach out to them if you would like to be included on the donation list.
Job search websites
If you don’t need emergency assistant and would rather focus your efforts on applying for new gigs—or you want to do both simultaneously—update your Contently profile to include latest samples and skills, and check out sites like ProBlogger, Remote.co, and LinkedIn for jobs.
Like all crises, this too shall pass. In the meantime, these freelancer resources are here to help you get through it.
Know of a freelancer relief program that’s not listed here? Send a tip to email@example.com.
Kylie Ora Lobell is a freelance writer and editor in Los Angeles. She’s written for the Washington Post, New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, and Forbes.
Photo credit: sorbetto